Report cards are now out on mental health in our schools. The Hopeful Futures Campaign has assembled a first-ever national report card that scores every state on policies that support school mental health, with recommendations for how to improve. 17 organizations joined together to form the Hopeful Futures Campaign. They believe that every child, in every school, should get the mental health services they need so they can thrive.
I encourage each of you to look to see how your state scored, and read the sections on ‘The Strategy’ and ‘The Solutions’. Under ‘The Solutions’, please look at the eight policy areas that contribute to a comprehensive school mental health system.
Even though all policy areas are extremely important, I want to call attention to Category 8 – Mental Health Education. Unfortunately, this has not been mentioned as part of our administration’s strategy to address our national mental health crisis. However, as a recently retired school counselor of thirty years, I see the need for mandates to be put in place to actually educate the students on mental health, including teaching about mental health conditions, from kindergarten through high school.
We mandate physical health through required PE and health classes in elementary school, continuing into high school. However, mental health is not treated with the same importance as physical health. As a result, many of our children and young adults are suffering. This must change. We must change from being ‘reactive’ to being ‘proactive’. Teach the children about mental health disorders so they can understand what they or a classmate may be going through.
How are children going to be able to recognize they may have a ‘medical’ condition that effects their emotions unless they are taught about these conditions? Without learning about what to look out for, many will continue to suffer in silence, thinking that they are abnormal or have a character flaw. This lack of education leads to shame and isolation. In turn, many do not reach out for help.
Mandates must be put into place if we truly want to effect change and help our children and young adults. This will not happen overnight, but it can be done. Again, we must teach the children.
Fortunately, some states are in the beginning stages of making changes. Please read about the following three states.
- New York deserves continued praise for its widely lauded mental health education law, which requires that all schools’ health education programs include mental health.
- Several states, including Virginia, have followed suit, recognizing the importance of intentionally integrating mental health into health education.
- Florida’s statute requires mental health education only in middle and high school, but is commendable for its final rule, effective July 2021, that specifies a minimum of five hours annually of instruction on mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
To see how your own state scored in the various areas, click the link “Home” below; then click onto your state. And please join the Hopeful Futures Campaign to advocate for increased support for mental health education in our schools!